The most interesting utility man in the world
The tweets trickled in at first. Then slowly, they picked up speed as the game progressed.
Braves fans, enamored with Martin Prado’s emergency move to shortstop, flooded Twitterverse with hyperbole about the Braves’ versatile star.
“I heard Martin Prado delivered Brian McCann’s baby earlier this afternoon.”
“Prado will have cured cancer before this game ends.”
The tweets continued to fill the Internet last Friday night as Prado, already one of the most beloved Braves, cemented his place in franchise lore when he took over at short after backup Jack Wilson broke his right pinkie.
Wilson was starting for rookie Andrelton Simmons, who was already on the DL with a broken right pinkie, leaving the Braves with no choice than to turn to Prado.
No shortstop? No sweat.
Prado didn’t need to be prodded.
The man has more gloves than an Isotoner store.
Prado had already played left field, third base, second base and first base this season. He simply went from left to short — for the first time since 2008 — when Wilson injured his finger going for a grounder in the fourth inning.
His legend increased when he ranged behind second base and made a backhand flip to Dan Uggla for a force out.
“I try to do everything I can to make all my teammates and coaches and everybody confident and comfortable with the way I play everywhere,” Prado said after Friday’s game. “I’m going to do whatever I can — my best — anywhere I play.”
Backup catcher David Ross even joked that he hoped Prado wouldn’t take his job.
The next day, with the position still in flux, the stopgap shortstop was called upon again.
Prado started at his fifth position of the year and went 2-for-5 with an RBI as the Braves defeated the Mets for the second straight game.
His heroics prompted more excited tweets as Braves fans continued to laud his feats with their laptops and phones.
Prado already had a well-used hashtag — #MVPrado — but an account was quickly created.
Simply named @Prado_Facts, the account’s boasts and retweets make Prado seem superhuman, lifting him to a level with Dos Equis’ The Most Interesting Man in the World (“He once ran a marathon because it was on his way”) and Chuck Norris (“Ghosts sit around the campfire and tell Chuck Norris stories”).
A few samples:
“When Martin Prado goes to sleep, sheep count him.”
“Martin Prado didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night; Holiday Inn Express crashed on his couch.”
“In a surprising change, both the Swiss Army Knife & the universal remote will be renamed ‘The Martin Prado.”’
“Chuck Norris and Tim Tebow wear Martin Prado pajamas.”
It had 1,146 followers by Wednesday afternoon, but most Braves fans didn’t need Twitter to learn about Prado’s exploits.
They’ve been enamored with his versatility and productivity since he arrived in Atlanta for good in 2008. And there are a ton of reasons why Prado recently won the Heart and Hustle award, which are given to players on every team by the Major League Baseball Alumni.
Even as Prado trended on Twitter over the weekend, trade rumors resurfaced.
Prado’s name was mentioned over the winter, and the most recent one had him and a pitcher or two going to Arizona for outfielder Justin Upton, but it was merely speculation.
Prado is under contract through 2013 and the Braves hope to extend his contract and permanently move him to third when Chipper Jones retires at the end of the season.
That would be the best decision.
His versatility and willingness to play anywhere aside, Prado is one of the Braves’ most consistent and potent bats. He’s adjusted well to the outfield, but he’s more consistent and confident — and sometimes even spectacular — on the infield.
Teammates consistently reminded anyone who would listen this offseason that Prado was better than the hitter who batted .260 in his injury filled 2011 season. They insisted he would bounce back, that he would revert to the form he displayed when he .320 in ’08 or .307 in both ’09 and ’10.
He’s done that.
Prado is hitting .317 — seventh in the NL — and has already set his career high with 11 stolen bases. He’s sixth in the NL with 108 hits and leads the Braves with 34 multi-hit games.
Besides, the Braves would be making a mistake to trade a guy who is so popular with the fans and in his clubhouse and is the subject of this kind of Twitter praise:
“Prado is such a good hitter that he gets intentionally walked in batting practice.”